Chilled almond and garlic soup

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Freshly ground almonds make all the difference to the flavour of this Spanish soup, which my mother taught Maria how to make. I recall her pounding almonds laboriously with a stone pestle and mortar, but of course we can use a food processor. When you are able to use mild, sweet, new season’s garlic, you won’t need to add the sugar.

Ingredients

  • 2 large heads of garlic (as fresh as possible)
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 2 rounded teaspoons caster sugar (if needed)
  • 100 g ground almonds (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1 level tablespoon tomato purée
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 level teaspoons paprika
  • 3 or 4 good pinches of cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

Method

Break apart the heads of garlic and give the cloves a bash so the peel comes off easily, but leave them whole. Peel the onion and chop roughly. Put the garlic cloves and onion into a large saucepan and add 300ml of the milk. Bring up to bubbling, then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 25 minutes, until the garlic and onion are really soft.

Stir in the sugar and ground almonds, then tip the mixture into a food processor and whiz to a smooth paste. Return to the saucepan and stir in the remaining milk. Season generously with salt and bring to the boil, stirring. Now lower the heat and simmer very gently, stirring constantly, for 8-10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and leave until cold, then chill in the fridge.

Meanwhile, put the tomato purée, lemon juice, paprika and cayenne pepper into a small saucepan and heat until almost bubbling. Now stir over a low heat for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave until cold.

Spoon the chilled soup into individual bowls. Just before you eat, stir the olive oil vigorously into the cold tomato and paprika mixture and then spoon a whirl into the centre of each portion.

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